My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
May the grace and peace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all as we celebrate this final Sunday of the Advent season. There is a story told about a little boy whose father worked very hard at a very important job often bringing work home with him to do at night. On one such night, the little boy came into his father’s study and stood for a while unnoticed. Finally, his somewhat oblivious father sensed his son’s presence, acknowledged him, and asked what his son wanted. The son asked the normal pleasantry question about what his father was doing to which his father replied something about earning his paycheck. The son then asked how much the father made per hour, a question that seemed to irritate the boy’s father. Figuring that his son was in some kind of silly game of comparison with classmates at school, the father told him that that was a very rude question and that it was none of his business. So, the son left the room but he returned a few minutes later and stood in the same place. The father, annoyed at being disrupted a second time and still thinking about how rude the son’s question was finished the sentence he was writing and then quickly looked up to find his son holding a small ceramic pig with an Iowa State Cyclone emblem on the side. The son opened the bottom of the pig and, much to the surprise of his father, emptied a few quarters, nickels, dimes, and many many pennies onto his desk. The father looked at the tear stained eyes of his son who asked, “I’d like to buy one hour. Is this enough?” The father smiled at his son, put down his pen, and went to spend time with his son. And he never brought work home again.
For the past several weeks, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the obnoxious level of commercialism that plagues Christmas. A lot of people recognize that this is a problem but few offer any kind of solution. I believe that we hear one in the scriptures today. The first reading and gospel are one of the few times when it is apparent that one passage is directly building upon another. In the first reading, Nathan, speaking on behalf of God, promised David an heir who will be great and a son of God. In the gospel, the angel Gabriel, speaking on behalf of God, tells Mary Jesus “will be great” and will be called the “Son of God.” In the first reading, Nathan promises David a kingdom forever; in the gospel, Gabriel tells Mary “of his kingdom there will be no end.” In the first reading Nathan promises David an everlasting throne. In the gospel, Gabriel promises Mary that Jesus will inherit the throne of David his Father.
Yet, amidst all these similarities, there is still one striking difference between these reading, a difference that gives us instruction as we approach Christmas. In the first reading, David feels blessed by God. The Ark of the Covenant, which had been traveling all over Israel to be kept safe, finally arrives in Jerusalem. And David wants to do something nice for God for all the good things God has done for him. So he decides to build a house or, more precisely, a temple. The problem is that God didn’t ask for a house. He didn’t even want one! He was perfectly fine in his tent. But instead of punishing David, as we might expect, God decides that he’s going to build a house for David, a lineage so that all of David’s offspring can serve God.
Mary is also coming off of a pretty good stretch. She has got engaged to Joseph, an event that is very exciting. But, Mary’s first act is not to go out and get a gift for God in thanks. She didn’t sacrifice the fattened calf. Mary, instead, thanked God for her good fortune. She simply spent time with God in prayer. This thankful attitude is what allowed her to be the first tabernacle of the body of Christ.
This, then, is the antidote to the problem of commercialism; to focus on relationships instead of things. In other words, our first and foremost gift this time of year should be more about time than money or trinkets. No amount of money, no perfect toy, no ticket to a bowl game is as important as being with the people we love and being with our God. Now is the perfect moment to take some time to be with those we love and spend time with God in prayer. Don’t make God send a prophet, an Angel, or a crying child to get you to do it.